The John Seymour School for Self Sufficiency


It has been an unusual year (again!).     Our spring sowing was almost immediately followed by 6 weeks of blazing sunshine - not a good recipe for the germination of such reluctant growers as carrots and parsnips.     Salad crops did well and so did the sweetcorn, butternut squashes, courgettes etc. planted out from the greenhouse.     But it was simply impossible to control weeds by hoeing on the plots sown with carrot and parsnips - this meant a lot of tedious hand weeding many weeks later when the tiny seedlings finally began to appear.      When the rains finally came the garden simply jumped into bountiful life - masses of soft fruits (blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries etc.`), loads of apples and currently our first big crop of plums from the new trees.

Our July/August course turned out to be a great success.   Our one wet day was spent productively making baskets - a good time was had by all - and then there was continuous activity and teaching in the garden.  

We did all the usual things – making bread, beer and sausages, harvesting beans and blackcurrants (and putting many bags into the deep freeze), making super meals, drinking lots of wine, visiting pubs and walking over moors and beaches. We went to the Craster concert of Andy and Margaret Watchorn. We sowed seeds, weeded couch grass, learned to scythe nettles and thistles. We used the compost heap and the rotavator and we learned how to burn huge quantities of hedge cuttings and prunings. We talked about politics, evolution and the cosmic battle between life and entropy. We talked about money, corporations and the shortcomings of democracy. We mused over the complexities and potential power of crypto-currencies. We teased each other and laughed a lot. We learned new card games and shared ideas on best films and books. They said it was the most inspiring week of their lives and that they would always keep in touch. We hugged and kissed and said “goodbye”.

New Teaching Videos on Youtube      One great outcome from this year's summer course has been the production (by Tom and Ariane from Brittany) of a series of excellent youtube teaching videos.     You can access these via this link -

The Bountiful summer garden     Despite the challenge posed by hot dry weather, the summer garden has been wonderfully bountiful - as you can see from the picture below (taken from high up on the garden wall!)      The summer rains also came just in time to boost the crop of pink fir apple potatoes (they seem remarkably resistant to blight!).      The picture shows a wheelbarrow full - harvested from just 16 seed potatoes.     That's the true bounty of nature for you - all from this wonderful rich soil.

CB PotsCB Garden

Northumbrian A Frame Scythes - for Sale     My campaign to re-introduce the traditional scythe for controlling grassland and weeds continues to go from strength to strength.    We held 2 more successful scything workshops and sold another 6 new scythes this year.    I make these scythes myself, importing blades from Austria.   Slowly more people are realising the advantages (and pleasures) of scything.  I now have 4 lovely new scythes ready for the 2017 season. The two handled scottish or northumbrian scythe is much the best tool for controlling tough weeds like thistle, nettle and (particularly) brambles/tree seedlings.    My new scythes sell for 100 - they are a joy to use and last a lifetime!     Drop me an email if you are interested.

Northumbrian "A" frame scythes for sale
New Scythe 
The Renovation Story

  In 2014 our courses moved to the beautiful coast of north Northumberland where we have begun the renovation of a fine old Victorian kitchen garden.    The renovation work provides an unusual opportunity for our students to be involved in the development of the garden infrastructure and planning.     It's many years since the garden was in full use but the site is lucky enough to have a massively high brick wall along its east and north sides.    The wall was built from the dutch bricks which were used as ballast by coal ships from Newcastle in the nineteenth century.  

The old farmhouse has been lovingly restored and now includes a pond and wildflower meadow.

The wildflower meadow

The kitchen garden lies on the north side (to the left of the picture).     The soil is a heavy well drained loam with few nasty weeds - no creeping buttercup or couch, just a few nettles.    The biggest challenge was digging out a few very old tree stumps whose roots have gone under the walls.   You can see the massive (recently re-pointed) south facing wall which will give the garden such a beneficial micro-climate.  

The School

Will Sutherland has run self-sufficiency courses for more than 20 years, teaching the methods and philosophy developed by John Seymour.     Will worked for over 10 years with John Seymour in Ireland and, with John, created the New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency published by Dorling Kindersley.   In 2010 we took our courses to the wine growing region near Bordeaux where the warm weather, swimming pool and excellent local wine made a nice change from the cooler climes of Ireland.    Now we are moving back to cooler climes to take up the challenge of re-creating a classic old kitchen garden.  

STLCourse LunchStLegerBaskets

What our students said:

“Thank you so much: we really enjoyed the course and found it VERY interesting and helpful. And what a beautiful place in which to do it”

“Thank you for a wonderful holiday. The food has been amazing and we have really enjoyed the Class. You have a beautiful place here.”

Such great people. Such strong spirits. Great to know you guys!'